Map of Mozambique
Status: Presidential Republic in southeastern Africa
Population: 30,098,197 (2020 est)
Area: 308,642 sq. miles
Currency: 100 Centavos = 1 Metical. (MT66 = U.S. $1)
When Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1498, he made Portugal the major power in the Indian Ocean. Mozambique’s natural harbors were used to refit the Portuguese ships, but Portugal located its administrative center farther north in Mombasa. Within a century, Portuguese power was receding. Weakened by European wars, its settlements were under unrelenting attack by Arab states and its trade was undermined by the British and Dutch.
Mombasa fell to the Sultan of Oman in 1698. Portugal’s Governor General moved to the fortified island of Mozambique. Two centuries later the Portuguese headquarters relocated to the commercial center of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). Mozambique was underdeveloped, sparsely settled and only had nominal control of its interior. Its western borders were undefined.
After the 1876 Congo Conference, Portugal launched a series of expeditions to extend its control over the interior. It also attempted to demonstrate “effective occupation” by construction of public buildings, including some elegant post offices, and by the introduction of Mozambique’s first postage stamps in 1877.
Lacking the resources to develop the vast territory, Portugal turned to a system of leasing land to private concessioneers. In 1891 the British-owned Mozambique Company was granted virtual sovereignty over about 62,000 square miles south of the Zambezi River. The company issued its own postage stamps from 1892 until its contract ended in 1941. The Nyassa Company was chartered in 1891 but got off to a slow start. Its first stamps, produced in 1895, were destroyed because they were printed in London rather than Portugal. It was not until 1898 that the Nyassa Company successfully released its first stamps. Never very profitable, the company’s contract was revoked in 1929. The Zambezia Company was chartered in 1892 and began issuing stamps in 1894. When the company was faltering in 1913, Portugal issued stamps for the coal-rich province of Tete and the commercial center Quelimane, both previously part of the Zambezia Company lands. The Zambezia contract was terminated in 1920. When the three concessions ended, their stamps were replaced by those of Mozambique.
In 1895, Portugal issued stamps for Lourenço Marques and Inhambane, the two remaining provinces which were not part of the concessions. In addition to political motives, income from the lucrative philatelic market was undoubtedly a consideration in these stamp issues. One year, the Nyassa Company reportedly anticipated a quarter of its revenue from philatelic sales.
After the 1926 military coup in Portugal, Lisbon strengthened its control of Mozambique. In 1950 Portugal began to upgrade Mozambique’s infrastructure. Meanwhile, the independence movement intensified. After the 1974 coup in Lisbon, independence forces took control in Mozambique. On June 25, 1975, Mozambique became an independent single-party state.
The postal service appears to function adequately in Mozambique today. The state is a prolific stamp issuer, producing hundreds of varieties a year. It is not clear whether all of the numerous stamp issues are actually sold in-country, but many are available to the public. Local demand does not appear to be great, however.
Editor's Note: The article "Worldwide in a Nutshell: Mozambique" was published in the May 2020 issue of The American Philatelist, available exclusively to members of the American Philatelic Society. Click here to view the full issue.